2012 NBA Draft: Too Many Questions
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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Nearly three months separates the end of the NCAA season and the NBA Draft. While that may not seem like a long time, for the draft prospects it’s an eternity. During this stretch they’ve bounced around the country to get evaluated, questioned and worked out. Every time they get to a new city there’s a chance for them to help, or hurt, their stock.
The end is near, though. On Thursday this step of the process will be complete and the draft class will be prospects no more. They’ll be rookies.
As we approach draft night it appears clear that a select group of players have faltered throughout the last 12 weeks. They are projected to go significantly lower than they originally were back in April and the common reason for all of them is that there are just too many questions about them to justify taking them higher.
Jared Sullinger (Ohio State, So.) – 6’9, 268 lbs. Power Forward
By now everyone knows about Sullinger getting red flagged at the NBA Draft Combine for back issues. No matter how good you are or how much teams are in love with you, a red flag can change everything. It raises concerns about long-term health and really makes teams second guess everything they liked about a player.
Even though they will probably end up regretting it down the line, you can expect teams who need Sullinger’s help in the worst way to go in another direction early on in the draft. Last year he was projected as a lock to go in the top four. Prior to the medical issues surfacing there was a slight chance he could fall out of the top 10, but it was very unlikely.
Based on the current talk around the league, the odds are against Sullinger going in the lottery. After the lottery portion of the draft is complete, we’ll likely find out just how serious the questions about Sullinger’s back are. If he goes prior to 20, then there’s not a lot of long-term risk. But, if he lasts past there or even into the second round, then we know there’s legitimate fear.
While he could end up being the next DeJuan Blair, most teams are inclined to listen to their doctors first and foremost. If anyone is capable of rebounding from a draft night tumble it’s Sullinger. He’s always recognized how many doubts there are about his pro potential, so for him this is just more fuel to the fire.
Perry Jones III (Baylor, So.) – 6’11, 234. Forward
Few players in this draft spark debate like Jones, who is probably the second-most naturally gifted player in this draft class behind Anthony Davis. While he has the tools to be a future All-Star, through two years of college we rarely saw him play with the intensity or energy level that every All-Star does. At times that was attributed to his youth, but it happened frequently enough to where that excuse wore thin.
That’s not the only thing weighing Jones down right now. Overall, he’s just a very confusing player to figure out how to use. At 6’11 he could legitimately play any position 3-5 as long as he puts in the right amount of work. That kind of versatility is extremely attractive, but it also creates a lot more uncertainty about Jones as a player, which is the last thing he needed. Jones has been trying to sell himself as a small forward at times. That wasn’t the best decision on his part because it’s probably the position he’d be least effective at early on.
Since high school Jones has been billed as a future top five. Over the last three months he peaked at the 7-8 range, but now it’s looking more like he could last past the lottery. Jones still has upside that is unrivaled by most. Unfortunately for him and his camp, it looks like he didn’t do a good enough of a job selling teams on his ability to fulfill it during this process.
Tony Wroten (Washington, Fr.) – 6’6, 203 lbs. Guard
There’s no denying that Wroten was one of the best freshmen in the country this season. Few other first-year players produced like he did. However, being one of the best freshman in the country does not automatically mean you should bolt for the NBA, as Wroten is about to learn the hard way.
At the pro level it’s a necessity for most guards to be able to shoot and take care of the basketball. There are some exceptions as there are with anything, but the better you can do those two things the higher your chances are to succeed.
Wroten struggles mightily with both. He averaged more turnovers (3.8) than assists (3.7) and shot a woeful 16 percent from beyond the arc and 58 percent from the charity stripe. Especially now in hindsight, it would have been really smart for Wroten to stick around and work on improving those weaknesses.
On top of all that, Wroten is a tweener stuck between playing point guard or shooting guard. It’s hard to tell which he’ll play because it’s going to be hard to trust him running a team and even harder to have confidence in his ability to play without the ball.
When he declared, Wroten was a lock to go in the first round, probably a top 20 pick, but his weaknesses have been magnified even more since the end of the season. Since he hasn’t responded the way he needed to, it’s looking like he’s going to have to earn his way onto an NBA roster as a second round pick without a guaranteed contract.
Quincy Miller (Baylor, Fr.) – 6’10, 219 lbs. Small Forward
At first, the right decision was made by Miller. He was going to stay in school and enter the 2012-2013 NCAA season as a potential top 10 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Then, at the last minute, he had a change of heart and decided to enter this year’s draft despite all the positive feedback he received over his decision to stay.
Early on it didn’t look like the last-minute switch was going to affect his stock much. He was still projected as a lottery selection thanks to being one of the few true small forwards who warrants first round consideration.
That is no longer the case. Miller did not impress at the Combine in Chicago and has been slipping since. Word is his knee that was surgically repaired in high school due to an ACL has been holding him back in workouts.
Miller now finds himself firmly on the first round bubble. Teams looking for a small forward are now rumored to be looking at power forwards like Moe Harkless and Terrence Jones who could potentially transition over the the small forward rather than Miller.
As disheartening as it may be for these prospects to have so many questions surrounding them prior to draft night, come Friday these questions won’t matter at all. At that point everyone will be professionals and their careers will be in their hands. They’ll have their chances to prove people wrong and show that the draft process still has its flaws.